Going back to natural hair is“more than just a trend” in Africa - researcher pic: pexels.com

Scientists who recently presented at a hair and skin congress in Durban believe that the pro-natural hair movement is more than just a fad.

They were addressing the 71st Annual Congress of the Dermatology Society of South Africa which was held in conjunction with the 2nd African Society of Dermatology and Venereology (ASDV) congress in Durban recently.

A number of interactive pre-congress workshops on ethnic skin, hair disorders, vitiligo dermatopathology, cosmetic dermatology and dermatological surgery added an African perspective to the meeting.

In addition, updates on skin diseases and practical treatments relevant in everyday clinical practice were highlighted.

Alice Laurent, General Manager, Research and Innovation: L’Oréal South Africa, and her team presented research they’ve conducted on the natural hair cycle.

“This is where you have your free, natural, afro-style hair and the phases where you go through different styles. So should you be braiding it, or using extensions? And these kind of matters. We found that women who move away from relaxers tend to go through a period of rest with protective hairstyles like braids. On the other side, there are periods of time where the hair remains free. So it was very important for us to understand what this entails. And we looked very simply in a pragmatic way at the influences around this,” she said.

There are a number of aspects which they found that are important for those wanting to go natural to know: “We have actually demonstrated that when you just comb your hair in its natural curly state, you actually damage the surface of your hair, which is the entry point for deeper damage. The second aspect, is that when you braid you actually put a very strong mechanical constraint on the hair. This has a very strong impact. From the first cycle, you can see the impact on the hair. And on the second cycle, you can start seeing the further impact on the hair.”

Laurent said their research will help them help African women who are going natural: “What this means for us, is that we need to help women in this rise of natural hair by getting more expert innovation to help them do the right thing. For example the kind of braiding they should be doing; how to help nourish their hair throughout the weeks where it's braided; to accompany the unbraiding phase to nourish the hair and help it recover from the in-between phases of the cycle. There is a whole set of actions which we are going to take after digesting this research in terms of product innovation,” she said.

Laurent said, for example, there is much progress that women can have by having the right braiding techniques. “By not having braids that are too tight, pulling on the hair. When you see the damage on the fibres itself, you see that is important to consider the size and weight of the braids and to leave the hair a little loose so there is not too much constraint applied on it. These are the kinds of innovation investment we are making into the natural hair movement.”

She said they believe that it is “more than just a trend”. “We believe the back to natural hair movement is more than just a trend, but a new way of dealing with African hair. It requires specific products because there is the need of being moisturised, more subtle, more easy to manipulate, more easy to comb, is absolutely key in this process.”

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